Natasha Badhwar was in conversation with Archana Pai Kulkarni at the SheThePeople.TV book club event at Gyan Adab, in Pune.

It happens in most stories. The unexpected. The twists and turns. Uncertainty looms large, and suddenly things change, and everything falls into place. It happened last evening too at the SheThePeople.Tv book club event at Gyan Adab in Pune, where Natasha Badhwar, India’s first woman news cameraperson, filmmaker, corporate trainer, fashion entrepreneur, and mum was in conversation with Archana Pai Kulkarni. The skies had opened up, there was deafening thunder and the roads were water-logged, making it extremely challenging to reach the venue. Just as we thought that we may have to postpone the session, a senior citizen arrived. She had braved the rain and was eager to participate in the sharing of stories. Slowly, people walked in unfazed by the rain and the session began with nature writing its own fables in the background.

Natasha spoke on why it was important for everyone to share their stories. ‘You matter. Everyone matters. Their stories matter. When you reflect upon the life you have led, when you peel off the layers one by one and dig deeper, you are able to look at your life with understanding and objectivity. What seemed horrifying or confounding in the past doesn’t seem so any more. There is clarity and acceptance. You feel kinder towards yourself,’ she said.

Natasha began blogging anonymously after she became a mother to her three lovely daughters, Sahar, Aliza and Naseem. She found the conversations about parenting that were happening around her shallow. She was averse to following a prescribed script that is handed over to all newbie mothers. Among all the voices inside her—those of the daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, wanderer, office-goer—she felt that the mother’s voice wasn’t strong enough. She began to explore and write her stories. As she narrated them, she gathered the courage to ‘come out’ as a mother, to speak up and share. Her story resonated with several of her readers, who began to share their own. Natasha confessed that she had to be selective about what and how much to reveal. She was afraid of hurting her father, hurting the people around her. She had to let some of her experiences gestate before fathoming what they meant to her. She had to wait for the truth to emerge, and not dilute it.

Among all the voices inside her—those of the daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, wanderer, office-goer—she felt that the mother’s voice wasn’t strong enough.

‘You meet people, there is a connect. One life melds with another. Yet another story is written. There is resonance. The personal becomes universal. Conversations begin. You shed your burdens. The heart feels lighter. Storytelling is the key to happiness. It’s important for all of us to be counted, for our stories to be heard,’ feels Natasha. Stories, she avers, have the power of transforming you. You understand what you have internalised and how conditioned you are, and you are able to shed what does not resonate with you. You are able to write your own script, and to be your own person.

‘While you  ask yourself where it all began and how, what happened in the middle, and where it is headed, it’s good to let down your hair once in a while, make space  for yourself, travel, go away from home, return to it, and allow yourself to be a little mad,’ she feels. Like the time when Natasha was in Khodamba to teach Bhil children to read and write Hindi and do basic math, and she found two lice in her hair, which she stuck in her notebook. Her host, Sonti Singh, whose humanity kept Natasha fed and looked after, was a dehati aurat, whose spirit was indefatigable. Sonti’s story was different from Natasha’s. The rural and the urban juxtaposed. Yet, there was the common thread of humanity that binds us, that makes memories, that touches the heart. Another bond was forged. Yet another story written.

Natasha collects such unusual mementoes and preserves them inside her notebook, till she is ready to set them free into the world, as integral characters in her stories.

Natasha collects such unusual mementoes and preserves them inside her notebook, till she is ready to set them free into the world, as integral characters in her stories. Natasha has syncretic roots and a Hindu-Sikh-Bihari-Lahori identity. Her husband Afzal is a Muslim. These multiple identities make her special. The stories this diversity creates are remarkable. The innocent wisdom of her daughters astounds her and finds its way into her narratives. It makes her want to stop in the middle of a conversation to take notes, lest she forget. ‘It feels good that they participate in the process, often goading me to write about something or telling me not to,’ she shares fondly.

‘Ditch shame. Accept your need for validation. Have an affair with your self-esteem. Break free from fear. Nurture your inner child. Enter unchartered territory. Excavate. Tell your story. Write for yourself, and for a gentler, more just world. Be happy,’

Ever since her book, My Daughters’ Mum has been published, Natasha has taken to wearing a flower in her hair. It’s a kind of blossoming, a coming into her own, a forging of a new relationship with herself. She has permitted herself to be who she wants to be. To come out and tell her story. She knows that it is okay to do so. ‘Ditch shame. Accept your need for validation. Have an affair with your self-esteem. Break free from fear. Nurture your inner child. Enter unchartered territory. Excavate. Tell your story. Write for yourself, and for a gentler, more just world. Be happy,’ she says. And all’s well that ends well.

Archana Pai Kulkarni is a Journalist, Editor, Creative Writer and Blogger. 

STP_Bookclub Natasha Badhwar

Also Read: All Kinds Of Female Narratives Are Necessary: Usha Alexander

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